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Ela Carte reviiews: Pretty Mama in Melbourne CBD


Pretty Mama ? 220 Spencer Street Melbourne ?

Turn left at Watertank Way. One of those parts of Melbourne I had no idea existed. A funky new development with cycle themed art installations, galleries, and this Caribbean grill.

You’ll smell Pretty Mama before you get there, but I love that. You can’t miss the theme, either, it’s a beachy, tropical fitout.

I’ve been twice now, once for lunch and once for dinner, enjoyed the tucker both times but the lunch menu offers stupendous value.

Available Tuesday to Friday from 12pm to 4pm, twenty bucks will buy you a lunch-sized main, two sides, and a drink of your choice (wine, Jamaican Red Stripe beer, alcoholic ginger beer, or soft drink).

There are six choices, and they’re good ones. We bypassed the Jerk chicken and Grilled rockling fillets, mainly because of the rule that states if goat curry is on the menu, you must order it (okay, it’s an unwritten rule). This one’s got a decent amount of heat in the sauce – the meat has been dry rubbed, marinated overnight and slow cooked. Pair that with the freshness of pico de gallo, whack it in some roti bread and it’s quite a feed.

Also couldn’t go past the Cubano, that toasted sandwich made famous in the movie Chef, and these guys do a great version. This one  on thickly cut cornbread, toasted with marinated pork shoulder, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. It’s a little messy, but maaaaaan it’s good.

With two of us having the option of two sides, and four sides on offer, we threw caution to the wind and just grabbed one of each. So the grilled roti went great with the Trinidad goat curry, rice and beans were a decent filler, and there’s a simple Cuban salad.

Plantains were a nice surprise too, these are always the gamble on a menu ? can look deep-fried delish but taste chewy cardboard. Full points here, well worth ordering the entr?e option of plantain topped with blue swimmer crab remoulade. Their versions are twice cooked – cut into thick slices, deep friend, then squashed and refried again for a moment for crunch. The crab mixture is creamy and tasty and sits atop.

Also from the snacks, the Lobster pastiletos were fun, pretty spicy, but super tasty too, not unlike an Argentinian empanada but these hail from Cuba.

It was quiet on a midweek lunch time so we really were spoilt by the staff when it came to service. It was much busier on a Friday night when I returned, so service was noticeably slower (particularly for drinks). Also, in a fatal error for me, they managed to bring all the food almost at once so we were stuck trying to decide which dish would taste worst cold. The solution may be to tell them you’re not in a hurry, so give you some space between dishes, or maybe just order a few dishes at a time.

There’s a terrific  (and well-priced) drinks list ? whether it’s the soft or hard variety you’re after. There’s a list of fruit themed cocktails that were all winners, with the Ginger probably my favourite ? black rum, pimento dram, lime, ginger and soda.

Probably still a few wrinkles to iron out, but the signs are good ? the tide is in, the fruit cocktails are flowing, and this Mama is Pretty.


Lobster pastiletos are fun, pretty spicy and super tasty.

Lobster pastiletos are fun, pretty spicy and super tasty.

Goat curry - the meat has been dry rubbed, marinated overnight and slow cooked.

Goat curry – the meat has been dry rubbed, marinated overnight and slow cooked.


Plantains topped with blue swimmer crab remoulade.

Plantains topped with blue swimmer crab remoulade.